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updated: 3/3/2011 2:36 PM

Plans for Fox Lake taking shape

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Fox Lake officials who have been looking for a plan to revitalize the downtown area for more than 20 years are launching another effort.

The latest attempt to attract shoppers, add amenities, and change the public vision of Fox Lake started to take shape Wednesday night.

Village political and business leaders met with Charles Hanlon from LandVision LLC to review the good, the bad, and the ugly of Fox Lake.

The roughly 50 people who turned out for the planning workshop at Fox Lake Public Library were split into four groups to individually determine what the village did well, and what needs to be fixed.

Among the items cited as weaknesses were a lack of hotels, a lack of ability to get boaters using the Chain O' Lakes to walk downtown, little parking, and the location of the village's Metra train station.

Officials also learned residents and business leaders felt the Metra train line ending in Fox Lake, the amount of traffic that heads through downtown, and amenities such as Lakefront Park on Nippersink Drive were among its assets.

"The purpose of this workshop is to draw out the comments and concerns of the people who know the town best," Hanlon said. "We are trying to take advantage of all the years of history from the village of Fox Lake here in this room."

The gathering included three current or former mayors, numerous current and former village trustees, a couple of former school superintendents, many business owners, and some concerned residents.

Village leaders said they want a more "viable" downtown area, but admit that term is open to interpretation. They agreed it would include better foot traffic to area shops, better parking, fewer vacant stores and better use of current structures and resources to entice people who travel on Route 12 to stop in Fox Lake.

It was the first of two workshops designed to create a future development plan for the downtown district. The second workshop is scheduled for April 7.

Officials said the information collected during workshop was interesting, and should go a long way to help craft a plan.

"I think it was a great meeting filled with a lot of insight on our village's positives as well as negatives," Trustee Valerie Griseta said. "This should go a long way to help us get a real working plan going. The more information we can gather from everyone, the better off we are."

Fox Lake officials paid $15,000 for the latest redevelopment plan. Village officials acknowledged previous boards have sought downtown redevelopment plans to spur economic growth. However, the ideas in those plans were never realized due to several issues, mostly involving of lack of funding.